India’s designer fashion industry is a hard nut to crack… Designers in India often try to tap into the commercial viability of ethnic apparel, aspiring to join the likes of Sabyasachi and Manish Malhotra, which gives the freedom of hefty price tags because you enjoy a higher value for money in the Indian customer’s mindset.
The other end of this spectrum creates brand identities that completely revolve around sustainability. This group can get an almost guaranteed backing from the standing Government for trying to follow a ‘Make in India’ approach or capitalise on the rich handicraft industry.
However, for Reby Kumar, Founder of fashion label Guapa, who left her career as a marketing consultant four years ago, the aim was to just make easy going clothes that people truly enjoy wearing.
The young designer set out to create a solely resort wear brand in 2013, one of the most niche categories worldwide, not just in India. The USP of her brand revolves around fun colours and toying with the idea that fashion has the power to instantly teleport your mind to a ‘happy place’.
Kumar’s inspiration for Guapa’s S/S ’18 collection was the song ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy!’, a perfect embodiment of her entire brand ideology. The clothes, showcased at the recent edition of Amazon India Fashion Week, explored print mashup through striping and florals in bright colours like yellow, green and peach, all the while keeping her silhouettes down to breezy maxi dresses, loose shirts and wide-leg pants.
In terms of materials, there was no shying away from sheen with a variety of silk, crinkled or netted satin in play all through the collection. The assortment focused on fuss-free wearability but trendy details like tiers, frills and asymmetry are what kept the line far from looking basic.
Speaking about her design trajectory to Apparel Resources, she recalls that when she started out, there was a time when you had to sit and explain to people what is the actual meaning of resort wear. This was more often than not followed by a shoo-off from people who said, “But we are not really going to the beach so we don’t even need to look at your garments.”
Interestingly enough, India has come out to be the fifth most vacation-deprived country in the world as of 2017, according to a recent report by Northstar Research Partners. So this response from people does not sound unnatural.
Nevertheless, the Delhi-based designer says that the market has changed drastically in the last couple of years with people now understanding that resort fashion isn’t just clothes you wear at the resort per se. Apart from this change in perception, she has also started to witness good response from international buyers in Europe and the US.
Talking about her current market, Kumar says that resort’s appeal is not limited to any age group and her light-hearted silhouettes work well on almost all body types so there is no limitation in that sense.
She adds, “Our clothes are something people would want to own a few of, not a type of Indian garment that you buy one and you’re done. So this is why I try to keep our assortment somewhat decently priced, maybe not in the affordable range but not extremely expensive either.”
The designer currently operates her label in the price range of INR 5,000-14,000. She regularly supplies to domestic stores like The Bombay Attic, Almari, Elan and has her own retail setup in Hauz Khas, New Delhi with plans to launch an online store soon.